Loud synthetic dog barks echoed throughout the mall. The roaming zombies all turned their undead gazes and started moving towards the sounds. As there were two sound sources in opposite directions, the horde in front of them parted like the Red Sea in the Bible.
The ‘grenades’ were super effective. They would hold the zombies attention for as long as their batteries lasted.
“Let’s go,” Yohan said, moving forward as quickly and quietly as possible. They couldn’t go too fast, but shouldn’t be too slow either. With nervous expressions, the rest of the volunteers followed him.
“Raaaauuuughhhh!” A zombie that was originally chasing after the puppy plushie howled once it noticed the group, causing several other zombies to turn around as well. The group froze under the weight of the zombie’s stares.
“Don’t look away from your assigned direction.” Yohan said, as he casually crushed the howling zombie’s head.
‘Does this guy have eyes on the back of his head or something?’
Everyone in the group got goosebumps. They hastily obeyed Yohan’s orders.
“Call out if there are two or more zombies approaching your side. Hey, Jung Hwan, you’re too close to Saeri. Stick together, but not that close.”
The group calmly moved forward. The group maintained a steady advance even when zombies noticed the group and approach from a distance. If there were two or more zombies approaching, Yohan would shoot some with his crossbow in order to prevent them from grouping up.
“Two on the left!” shouted Elder Park. Yohan quickly turned and aimed. However, the two zombies were lined up such that Elder Park’s head was blocking his line of sight.
“Get down!” shouted Yohan, but Elder Park didn’t seem to hear him. He was too busy pushing back the zombies with his padded left arm. Yohan bit his lip. If he moved over to help, he would expose their front and no one would be watching for zombies approaching from that direction. However, it would be even more dangerous if one of the side guards was breached.
As Yohan contemplated his actions, Elder Park managed to use the butcher knife in his right hand to stab one of the zombies in the heart. The sharp edge easily pierced through the zombie. Shortly after that, the other zombie behind the first one got stabbed in the heart as well. The two zombies struggled for a bit before they stopped moving entirely. In that scenario, it was impossible to stab both zombies in the head with just one hand free. The old man had demonstrated some quick thinking and responded appropriately.
“Good move,” Yohan remarked, giving Elder Park a thumbs up.
“Whew. That was difficult.”
Yohan continued forward and saw another group of zombies ahead of them. There were too many for them to force their way through. There was still another 50 meters before they were supposed to split up and retreating at this point wasn’t an option. Yohan quickly swung his backpack around so that he could pull out a cellphone from the side pocket. He started playing some music on the phone and slid it across the floor to lure the zombies away.
Undead eyes followed the music-playing phone and the zombies began moving towards it. However, despite the lure, there were still a number of zombies following the volunteers and that number continued to grow as the group reached the split-off point. Several group members were already short on breath.
“Yohan, I think it’s dangerous to keep going. Let’s rest here for a bit and take out a few zombies before moving on.” Gunn suggested, still standing in the back of the group. Yohan shook his head.
“Zombies are still entering the building right now. It’s a great idea if you have Zombie Blood or if you want to just fight here forever.”
“Damn it, okay.”
Stamina was an issue, but the general fatigue endured due to nervousness was a bigger problem. The entire time they were moving, everyone was tense, as a single mistake could end their lives. It took a lot of energy to maintain that level of focus and intensity, but they couldn’t afford to loosen up yet. They had to overcome that fatigue and keep their guard up, or else they would all die.
“By the way, what’s Zombie Blood?” Saeri asked.
“A mod item,” Yohan answered, jokingly.
“What the heck is a mod item?” Saeri tilted her head.
“Time to split up. Remember, don’t be afraid, but don’t get careless either. As long as everyone stays calm, no one will die.”
The group nodded and Yohan began moving once more. From here on out, they had to move faster. The entrance where zombies were swarming in from was right in front of them. Yohan repeatedly stabbed them in the brains and push kicked them away. He didn’t bother blocking the zombies with his padded left arm, nor did he step back like he usually did after his stab & kick combo. Even if it was more dangerous, it was necessary in order to move faster. Yohan set a quick pace and the other volunteers kept up. They were off to a good start.
“Six zombies behind!”
‘Shit,’ Yohan cursed inwardly. As soon as he thought things were going well, they were instantly thrown into a dangerous situation. To make matters worse, there were also three zombies ahead of them. Yohan felt his entire body shudder as it warned him of impending danger.
In the previous timeline, and even in the past six months of the current timeline, Yohan would always feel like his body would send out a danger signal whenever he was in a life-threatening situation. It was as if his body, after experiencing many life-threatening situations, could recognize when he was in danger and would scream out a warning.
Jung Hwan was trying to block all six zombies, but it was difficult for him to hold against the weight of that many zombies. He looked like he was going to fall over at any moment.
“Drop down and get away!” Yohan shouted. As soon as he heard Yohan’s voice, Jung Hwan pushed away from the zombies and fell on his butt. Yohan pulled the revolver out, took off the safety, aimed quickly, and shot the zombies moving towards Jung Hwan. Gunfire rang in everyone’s ears. Six bullets were fired in quick succession and, soon, only empty clicking could be heard. White smoke trailed out of the muzzle of the revolver as if it was a cigarette.
Five zombies fell. One bullet had missed. Yohan quickly pulled out a small knife from his waist and threw it. The knife sunk in 20 centimeters deep inside the last zombie’s forehead. Then, Yohan spun around and quickly fired crossbow bolts at the zombies ahead of him. Finally, he turned once more and shot the last zombie behind him. This all happened in a matter of seconds.
“Keep moving. Also, pick up my knife for me.”
“You’re crazy. That was awesome,” mumbled Saeri, her mouth agape.
“Stop spewing nonsense and focus on your side.” Yohan licked his lips. They had become dry in that nerve-wracking moment. After that, they only encountered zombies in groups of two, which were easy for the volunteers to handle. They moved forward and finally saw the entrance.
“Jung Hwan, the door.” Yohan called out. Jung Hwan moved to the front while Saeri and Elder Park rotated to cover the southeast and southwest directions, exactly how they had practiced a few times before.
Yohan took a step outside of the mall to create some space for Jung Hwan to grab the door handle of the door that had swung open outwardly. He immediately ran into a zombie and had to use his padded left arm on its chest to keep it away. The zombie snapped its teeth at him. Yohan gritted his teeth and focused his strength into his legs. The veins on his forehead bulged and his eyes became bloodshot.
“Hup!” Yohan shoved the zombie back and out of the doorway, causing a domino effect as the zombies behind it toppled over. Yohan then retreated, falling backwards has he swung his crossbow over to shoot an approaching zombie. The zombie cried foul incoherently as it fell to the floor.
“Close the door!”
The moment before Jung Hwan closed the door seemed to last a lifetime. Saeri and Elder Park were fighting off two zombies behind them. From the floor, Yohan slashed the hands off of the zombie that was about to push Saeri over.
“Hang in there. We’re almost there.”
“Yohan! I locked the door!” Jung Hwan shouted. Yohan turned his head and saw a firmly closed door. Countless zombies were on the other side of the door, pressed up against the reinforced glass. Yohan saw that Jung Hwan had already secured the inner doors as well.
“Great work. You’re pretty good at this. You’re definitely a door closing specialist. We should give you a nickname, like ‘Shutter Man’ or ‘The Closer’.”
“… Is this the right time to be joking around?”
“I’m not joking.”
Yohan looked across to the other group. Similar to their own situation, there were a good number of zombies swarming around. For a moment Yohan was concerned, but then he shook his head. Gunn and Hyuk were skilled survivors. With the puppy plushies and cell phone distracting most of the zombies, only a few would approach the group and they were more than capable of handling them. Yohan put his crossbow back over his shoulder. He dismissed his concerns, he had to believe in them.
“Let’s go back to the cosmetics store.”
* * *
Thanks to the gunshots, most of the zombies had moved towards Group One. Even though it wasn’t smooth sailing for Group Two, they were able to move forward without encountering too much danger. However, Gunn was already over exhausted. The problem was Min Seo, who was to his right. Whenever a zombie approached Min Seo, she was unable to finish it off and only pushed them away, forcing Gunn to cover both directions. He was so tired that he felt like he could die.
Somehow they made it to the entrance. Hyuk covered Gunn as he quickly reached out to close the door. However, a zombie managed to stick its arm through, making it impossible to close the door. Gunn flipped over his knife and stabbed at the hand, but more hands started reaching through the gap.
“Brother, hurry!” Hyuk cried out urgently.
“Hold on…I’m trying to hurry…” replied Gunn. He gripped the door handle in one hand and tried to push the zombies away with the other. However, the door was slowly being pried open by the zombies. One of the hands grabbed Gunn’s right wrist. Appalled, Gunn tried to shake it off. Unfortunately, his movement caused him to drop his knife.
“Shit!” Gunn swore and grabbed the door handle with both hands and began pulled with all his might.
“Arrrggghhh!” The sound of hand and finger bones cracking and getting crushed filled the air as Gunn forced the door shut. Blood flowed down the door. Gunn took off his leather glove so that he could properly turn the lock near the ground. As he moved to put the glove back on, something caused him to flinch and pause. After hesitating for a moment, he put the glove back on.
“Ack!” The others were still fighting, so he picked up his knife from the floor and charged in to help. He rapidly stabbed a zombie in the head four times and turned to help Min Seo stand up.
* * *
Group One arrived at the rendez-vous point first and were clearing out the area. They used the store’s entrance as a chokepoint and three people took turns fighting the zombies while Yohan covered them from atop a shelf on the other side of the store.
“The other group is coming. Everyone come to the front and cover them.”
Group One walked out of the cosmetic store and shoved the zombies aside. Once Group Two got close enough, Yohan to fire his crossbow at the zombies harassing them. With the extra support, all the volunteers were able to quickly rejoin together. Yohan entered the store last and closed the door as everyone gathered around him.
“… No,” replied Gunn. Everyone smiled. They had managed to complete a big operation and no one got infected. They still had to clear out all the zombies inside, but Yohan didn’t want to ruin the mood. They should celebrate this victory.
“Great. Good job. Now we can hunt.”
“Wait, I have something to say, Yohan,” Gunn spoke up. Yohan turned to look at him. Gunn took off his glove. It was covered in blood. Yohan frowned immediately.
‘No way, no way…’ Yohan took out some water and a clean cloth from his backpack and used them to wipe Gunn’s arm. Gunn’s wrist had been scratched. Yohan felt a sudden chill run through his body.
“Brother!” Hyuk cried out.
“I’m sorry about this.”
“Shut up Hyuk. My ears are falling off.” Yohan scolded as he searched the cosmetic store and found a blanket. He took out some clean wet wipes form his backpack and, after cleaning Gunn’s arm, he made him lie face down on the blanket with Yohan’s backpack supporting his head.
“Hold him down.”
“What are you going to do—” Gunn’s question was cut off as Yohan shoved some fabric into his mouth.
— Ω —
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